Iridium and Rolls-Royce Marine to Expand the Reach and Capabilities of Autonomous Vessels
MCLEAN, Va., Aug. 30, 2018 -- Iridium Communications Inc. announced today it has signed a letter of intent with Rolls-Royce Marine (RRM), in support of its autonomous vessel development program. Through this arrangement, RRM and Iridium will work together to explore incorporating Iridium's next-generation L-band satellite broadband service, Iridium Certus, into the RRM suite of ship intelligence solutions. By doing so, RRM will have a broadband capability that can serve as a standalone option or high-throughput backup, while expanding the reach of autonomous vessels.
RRM's solutions provide remote access to onshore operators and control centers, delivering real-time connectivity and automation. By automating processes such as navigation, crews are able to focus on more valuable areas of vessel operations, helping to streamline overall functionality, according to RRM.
Autonomous ships are being examined by the International Maritime Organization, where they are defining the regulatory environment and degrees of autonomy for maritime autonomous surface ships, The capabilities offered by Iridium Certus will help streamline management of vessel operations, whether for command and control; engine diagnostics; tracking information; and other onboard processes for a simple, secure and reliable experience.
"When evaluating partners for our remote and autonomous vessel development program and ship intelligence solutions, Iridium is complementing our connectivity strategy for a number of reasons," said Kenneth Solberg, technical product manager, Ship Intelligence, Rolls-Royce Marine. "Their new interconnected low Earth orbit [LEO] satellite network is able to provide global coverage with low latencies for both coastal and oceangoing vessels, while at the same time having the robustness of the L-band. And being an actor with truly global coverage, including polar regions, vessel owners will have the confidence that wherever they sail their ship, it will stay connected. The small form-factor antennas and terminals enabled by Iridium Certus have no moving parts, reducing the risk of breakdowns and are built to withstand the harsh conditions at sea. The journey of enabling Iridium Certus to be compliant with RR remote and autonomous operational requirements, sets the stage for an exciting offering that we look forward to begin exploring."
Iridium operates the world's largest, and only pole-to-pole, mobile commercial satellite constellation. The network is comprised of 66 crosslinked LEO satellites that blanket the entire planet with reliable satellite connectivity. The service, planned for commercial availability in 2018, will soon after deliver the fastest L-band satellite broadband speeds on the market, according to the company.
"Enabling the digitalization of shipping is at the core of our strategy for our maritime business, and we are proud to begin exploring this opportunity with Rolls-Royce Marine," said Wouter Deknopper, vice president and general manager, Maritime, at Iridium. "Iridium's constellation is an ideal network to support autonomous vessels, due to its inherent resiliency, mobility and truly global coverage. Supporting RRM's revolutionary autonomous vessel initiative is a natural and exciting next step that we are fully equipped to take."
Iridium NEXT is the company's next-generation satellite constellation currently being launched by SpaceX. To date, there have been seven successful Iridium NEXT launches, deploying 65 new satellites. In total, 75 new satellites are being launched to LEO, of which 66 will be in the active constellation, with nine on-orbit spares.